Imagine if Waldo decided to forego his stripes and beanie for a day. Actually, scratch that. We can do better.
Imagine if Waldo decided to go to a Waldo convention. As he enters the convention center, he sees tens of thousands of people of middle-to-above-average height, with brown hair, wearing red and white stripes.
But Waldo knows that they aren’t the real Waldo. He can see the subtle differences in skin tone, the different hue of their red stripes, and the slight variation in the width of their white stripes. If given the chance, I'm sure he could clearly explain to you exactly why none of the imposters are anywhere near as good or authentic as himself. But if you’re standing by the doors, scanning the massive crowd and trying to pick out the best Waldo at a glance, do you think he’ll even have the chance to plead his case?
Narrow Your Angle
It is the availability of substitutes, of legitimate alternatives to our brand, of “others”, that allows people to forget about us forever as we leave their mind or screen. If we are not seen as demonstrably and explicably better than everyone else in our field, then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we must expect to compete primarily on being simply being cheaper, easier, or more accessible.
The world does not need another generalist. There are enough general contractors, enough full-service agencies, enough large practices. There are enough Walmarts and Targets - in fact, some would argue (K-Mart included) that there are already too many!
The world is drowning in businesses that are only truly differentiated by their location or price, and brands that only stand out because of their color scheme or over-the-top social media. What the world needs, and what customers and clients crave, is deep expertise based in specific subjects.
Expertise is the only substantial basis that we can differentiate ourselves from the rest. Not our personality. Not our process. Not our mission statement. Expertise alone can set us apart in a meaningful, memorable, powerful way.
When the alternatives to hiring us, buying our work, or following us are many, the client/customer can be picky. They can insist on lower pricing, make unreasonable demands, or pretend like we ceased to exist at any moment.
Only through Positioning ourselves in an intentional and thoughtful way can we begin to make a substantive impact on everyone that comes into contact with our brand. Brand Positioning is the foundation of business development success, and of business success in general.
At its heart, Positioning is an exercise in relativity. When we decide to position ourselves against the masses of possible alternatives, our top goal should be to reduce (or outright eliminate) as many of them from contention as possible. Reducing the legitimate alternatives to our brand allows us to resonate more strongly with those we come into contact with on both a mental and emotional level. To make a truly lasting first impression, we must be different than all those who came before.
Effective Positioning allows us to revolutionize the way we interact with customers/clients and fundamentally changes how we run our businesses. With successful Positioning, you choose when and where to compete (and you win more often than not). With successful positioning, you do not win by simply cutting the price or working below your pay-grade. You are consciously chosen based on your merits and experience.
Niche Down and Get Your Positioning Right
To begin effectively Positioning yourself, you must do two things immediately.
- You must choose a focus, and
- You must articulate that focus through consistent messaging
If you love what you do, or even if you like what you do, you are lucky. But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to do it. Even if you’re doing exactly what you dream of every night when you go to sleep, however, you need to accept that simply loving your work is a poor excuse for making bad business decisions.
If you’re a creative or forward-thinking entrepreneur, you know that a natural curiosity for the new and the different are essential. If harnessed properly, this natural curiosity allows us to bring fresh thinking to old problems and keep our businesses evolving. But if allowed to rule, this adoration of innovation can lead us to avoid truly picking a focus at all!
You can choose to let the natural curiosity run wild, and can choose to remain a “full-service”, “fits all sizes”, unspecialized brand. In doing so, you will be relevant to everyone and anyone. You will probably get to do something different every day, and make each week different from the last.
But you will also invite all kinds of similarly generalized and undifferentiated competition, as well as some highly differentiated, specialized competition depending on what exactly a client/customer is looking for! You will never be the expert in this environment. You will find it hard to stand out. People will take one look, maybe two, and move on with their day.
There are some exceptions to the essential need to niche down, but honestly it is unlikely that you are one of them. You must make a bold and brave yet highly strategic decision for the direction of your brand if you want to grow. You must pick something that no one else does, or do it for a highly specific group of people that no one else does it for. And then you have to reinforce that decision in every facet of your brand, from messaging to design. Only then will you become not just one of many choices, but the only choice that matters.
If you are interested in niching down and rethinking the (intentional and unintentional) ways you portray your brand online, I would love to help! Contact me below or just email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.